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Get festive with spirits

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( — Christmas gatherings come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from boozy office parties to family-friendly neighborhood get-togethers, but what they all should have in common are liquid refreshments.

If the weather outside is frightful, party guests of all ages will appreciate hot chocolate or warm apple cider. For a festive touch on hot chocolate, Hetrick recommends adding a little heavy cream. You can add the child's name on top of the cream, written in chocolate syrup, or cinnamon for a little spice. For more fun, cut out little stencils, and place one on top of the glass. Shake the cinnamon through it, creating a pattern on top of the cream.

The grown-ups can celebrate with their own Christmas cocktails. No bar would be complete without eggnog, but for a unique addition, go with a Scandinavian glögg, advises Dale DeGroff, author of "The Craft of the Cocktail" (Clarkson Potter).

"Find yourself a hearty red wine that's not too expensive but tastes good. And remember that you'll add lots of spices and sugar and even some sprits, so you don't have to have really expensive wine," DeGroff says.

Pour the wine into a container, and add raisins, almonds and spices. Cover it, and let it stand for 24 hours at room temperature. When it comes time to serve, heat it, and add vodka or cognac, depending on preference, and sugar. Martinis can be enjoyed any time of the year, and a Christmastime favorite of DeGroff's is the apples and oranges martini. It's a perfect party recipe because it can be made in a large batch.

"It's 10 ounces Berentzen apple liqueur, 10 ounces cranberry juice and 12 ounces of orange vodka together in a large pitcher of ice. Stir about 50 times. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

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